Once proud PE school is crumbling

Overcrowding blamed for plummeting pass rate

| By
A pile of broken furniture
A heap of broken furniture at Mfesane High School. Photo: Joseph Chirume

Mfesane High School, once the pride of its community and a beacon for academic hope, is battling with overcrowding, a shortage of textbooks and crumbling infrastructure. The school also has to deal with leaking sewer pipes.

“Our toilets are horrible!” shouted a scholar to get this reporter’s attention.

The school in Motherwell, NU12, used to be one of the best schools for maths and science in Port Elizabeth’s townships.

Chris Maneli, the school principal, says the school is now badly overcrowded. “The school has 1,206 students. They are crammed in 23 classrooms. The classrooms are meant to accommodate 25 to 30 students.” The current ratio of students to classrooms is 52.

Recent matric results were poor. In 2014, 85% passed the exam. In 2015, only 47% passed.

Maneli blames overcrowding and the controversial policy of progressing slow learners to higher grades.

The Eastern Cape education department recently gave the school two mobile classrooms, each with the capacity for 50 students. The school had applied for ten.

“We appreciate this development, but we still need more,” said Maneli.

“The disturbing issue is that the classrooms are not being used yet. The department told us not to use them before they officially hand over the classes to us. We are still waiting for the handover ceremony to take place,” he said.

Photo of a broken toilet
One of the toilets at Mfesane High. Photo: Joseph Chirume

The surrounding community has very high unemployment and does not have the resources to contribute to the construction of more classrooms to supplement the existing buildings.

“Those who work are either domestic workers or farm labourers,” said Maneli. “Some people come from the former homelands of Ciskei and Transkei.”

“The school’s fortunes started to drop two years ago,” said a senior teacher who did not want to be named.

“It is baffling that Mfesane’s two decades of outstanding academic achievements are being erased overnight …The department is dragging its feet when it comes to solving the problems of overcrowding and infrastructure development. We desperately appeal to the department to open up their eyes and see the real picture before it’s too late.”

The teacher said the school has been engaging with the department over the issue since 2002. The department eventually addressed parents and staff after students and parents embarked on violent protests.

Kondile Phateka, chair of the school governing board, appealed to the education department to rescue the school. “We have an acute shortage of chairs and our infrastructure is old … The walls are crumbling and our water and sewer pipes are leaking. We also appeal to the community to give a helping hand. At the same time, the community should not vandalize the little that is left of the school.”

Photo of school kids
Better than nothing? In April, the Tutu Desk Foundation donated these lap desks to Mfesane High School because of the ongoing severe shortage of proper school desks. Photo: Joseph Chirume

Built in 1997, Mfesane was one of the first schools to offer grade 11 and 12 classes in Motherwell. The school’s display cabinet is decorated with various accolades. It was the regional winner of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering’s water competition in 2013.

The school became the first township school to claim the Algoa PE region first prize, over well-established schools like Daniel Pienaar, Alexander Road High School, Victoria Park High and Muir College. It came third nationally.

In 2015 it won the PE District FET Awards for Improvement in Learner Performance for grade 12 mathematics and physical science.

The Eastern Cape Education Department’s director for infrastructure disputed “any hitches in the finalisation in the delivery of the mobile structure”. According to the spokesperson, Loyiso Pulumani, “Notwithstanding his doubts, he committed to sending a works inspector to the school this morning [Wednesday]”.

TOPICS:  Education

Next:  Mother says she has no choice but to give up her daughter

Previous:  Zimbabweans make thriving farm on abandoned land

Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

The article states that Mfesane High was one of the first schools to offer grade 11 and 12 classes in Motherwell.

In fact these schools offered grade 11 and 12 before Mfesane: Masiphathisane, Doglous Mbopa, Motherwell High School, Ncedo Secondary, James Jolobe and Ndyebo Secondary.

© 2016 GroundUp. Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.